The Democratic presidential candidates will hold their Feb. 20 caucus in Nevada without the blessing of Harry Reid, the state’s senior senator, who has refused to commit to either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.
The Senate minority leader is instead setting the financial table for his retirement, selling property and easing in and out of securities that are paying up to 4 percent.
Reid is a savvy investor who has for years been accused of being part of suspect financial deals. Those deals aside, he’s not among the richest members of Congress, although he is no slouch either.
At the end of 2014, Reid's personal financial statements put his net worth as high as $6.7 million, while in 1995 he was worth as much as $5.6 million, an increase of 20 percent. The figure would place him among the 100 wealthiest members of Congress, according to Roll Call’s annual calculation.
But because congressional reporting parameters require a range of value for assets and liabilities, a definite number is not reportable. The low range of Reid’s net worth was put at $2.3 million in 2014 and $2.6 million in 1995.
“By Washington standards, Harry Reid did not enrich himself,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic political strategist. “If you look at the financial records of the other members of the Senate, you will find many who have more questionable dealings and a lot more personal wealth.”
An examination by American Media Institute also found that Reid in 2014 earned $98,500 in investment interest and the sale of bonds and other financial derivatives.
In the past 24 months, he’s sold his boyhood home and 110 surrounding acres in Searchlight, Nevada, for $1.75 million, cashed out of several bonds while buying others and purchased several mining claims.
He will cede his salary of $193,400 a year and draw a pension that the National Taxpayers Union estimates could work our to just under $140,000 annually.
Reid has weathered attacks on his various land deals and partnerships since the 1990s, and has often noted that he came to Washington in good financial shape. Therefore, he said, he had little motivation for making shady deals.
“He’s always said that he was a successful lawyer before he took office,” said Jim Manley, who served for six years as spokesman and senior communications adviser to Reid.
Reid’s land deals and revenue took place mostly in Nevada, a state that was among the most shaken by the 2008 real estate bubble. But before that, Reid found himself linked to trouble.
In 1998, Reid failed to report to Congress $1.1 million in revenue from a land deal in the Las Vegas suburbs. That deal was connected to Jay Brown, a Reid friend whose name has been tied to organized crime investigations. Brown has never been charged with regard to those investigations.
In 2006, Reid backed legislation that benefited developer and state lobbyist Harvey Whittemore, who gave $45,000 to Reid either directly via other entities supporting Reid, including Reid’s political action committee, the Searchlight Leadership Fund.
Whittemore was convicted in 2012 on charges related to the donations and development, including a count of causing the Reid campaign to file a false report with the Federal Election Commission. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
Among state Republicans, there has always been a mystery to Reid’s ways.
“I know that when he left Nevada to go to D.C., he was a humble guy,” said Renae Goedhart, who heads the Pahrump Valley Republican Women’s group, about 110 miles from Searchlight. “And he’s done very well. I am not sure that people believe that he used his connections in a dishonest way. But I do believe that he’s used his office for personal gain.”
Reid’s office did not respond to an email seeking an interview.